A retailer increases conversion by asking consumers what items they want alerts about. It’s almost like asking a trout what color lure it likes.

Mike Van Orden, chief technology officer, Sportsmen's Warehouse

Mike Van Orden, chief technology officer, Sportsmen’s Warehouse

Online retail can be a lot like fishing. You know there are fish out there but, if you want them to bite, you’ve first got to use some skill to figure out where they are and then make sure you put the right lure in front of them. Make all the right moves, at the right time, on the right day and you may just be rewarded with a catch. You don’t get used to it though as they don’t suddenly bite on every cast and they don’t always follow the same rules.

The truth is, shoppers can be as fickle as a brown trout.

Most retailers looking to lure online customers commonly do it by providing a compelling range of products, competitive prices, and efficient customer experience. These are table stakes for selling online, but the reality is that most retailers still only convert around 2% of their online visitors.

Bring in the Technology

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Where fisherman look to increase the odds of getting close to a prized catch using state-of-the-art sonar and other equipment, retailers turn to conversion testers, click trackers, and AI-powered behavioral monitors. In each case, technology is used to second guess behavior and increase the chances of getting that all important bite.

Finding out what customers like and what they need to happen before they’ll make a purchase is relatively simple: you just need to ask.

Customers will see items they actually want but not complete a purchase for a multitude of reasons: Maybe they choose to wait for a different season, a friend’s opinion, their next paycheck or for the next sale to take it down in price. Maybe they find their ideal item only to see the size or color they really want is out of stock. Any one, or a combination of these factors can stall and subsequently kill a purchase.

Imagine for a minute your prize catch had the ability to tell you it liked green lures? When it comes to retail, finding out what customers like and what they need to happen before they’ll make a purchase is relatively simple, you just need to ask.

At Sportsman’s Warehouse, this realization was the inspiration that led us to offer personalized product alerts to our customers. The MyAlerts platform we chose to integrate allows visitors to choose the exact product or category they want to track—be that because it’s their favored brand or product line or the product they want is out of stock. Alerts are automatically triggered when the change occurs onsite and sent via email.

By capturing our customer’s interests—specifically their intent to purchase a product in the future, and then informing them when a specific product of interest is back in stock, we’re able to re-engage that customer to come back to our site.

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We have seen a significant lift in sales since launching the MyAlerts program, and the program has allowed us to re-engage customers and thereby increase our overall conversion rates.  In addition, we have seen over 20% of those signing up for alerts are new customers.

Understanding the Tricks to Personalized Alerts

When you enable customers to curate their own marketing, there are some unique dynamics to watch for. By allowing customers to set up alerts on products availability you’re enabling them to self-segment into fields that are relevant to them. While this sounds like the holy grail for any marketer, product inventories and prices fluctuate greatly, and if you don’t have an intelligent matching and messaging solution powering these types of alerts, there’s the potential to damage your customer relationships rather than improve them.

For example, if you have a high volume of customers—say 10,000—who sign up for a high-demand product, and you only get 100 back in stock, if the alerting isn’t ‘intelligent’, all 10,000 customers will receive an email saying the product is back in stock, only to have the vast majority of them click through to be greeted with another out of stock message. Do this 1-2-3 times, and your customers won’t believe your alerts in the future and you’ll have lost this powerful opportunity to engage with them.

One of the reasons we selected the MyAlerts platform is that it has the ability to send the appropriate number of emails based on the available inventory and prior CTR data—decreasing the chance that our consumers are disappointed by getting an email alert for a high-demand item which has already gone out of stock when they click to it.

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MyAlerts has been innovating at the forefront of the personalization trend and the company’s technical expertise and consulting helped us avoid many of the next-level issues and mistakes that I know can be made with internally built systems. These mistakes can often lead to major customer fatigue which negates the positive personalized experience you’re trying to develop.

Seeing into the Future

Enabling customers to sign up to alerts on their preferences also provides us with immediate insight into the buying intentions of our most engaged consumers.  We are able to track which products have the strongest following, which have unmet demand, and what brands and categories have incremental opportunity.  For us, this is akin to seeing into the future which gives us an invaluable opportunity to structure our operations more efficiently in order to better meet customer preferences.

For me, the main ingredient that is missing in most personalization strategies is the customer—which seems ironic. Rather than trying to guess what our customers want, we have chosen to ask them directly. As a result, we’re now building better relationships and selling more of our products to more people, more often. If only fishing was that simple.

Outdoor gear retailer Sportsman’s Warehouse is No. 442 in the Internet Retailer Top 1000 ranking of North America’s leading online retailers.

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